Introductory Message

May 30, 2014

Dear College of Medicine Learners, Colleagues, and Partners,

I would like to take this opportunity to extend greetings to all of the learners, researchers, faculty and staff at the College of Medicine and to all of the people, communities, and institutions who are our partners.  It is with great excitement and enthusiasm that next week, I assume my role as your Dean of the College of Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan.

I look forward to meeting and getting to know as many of you as possible. In fact, part of the reason I wanted to start in June was to have the opportunity to learn as much as I could about the College of Medicine before the summer break.  An added bonus is the privilege to serve at the College of Medicine’s Convocation Ceremony and attend the Graduation Banquet next Friday.

I want to share with you a little bit about my priorities, my vision and my plans for the upcoming first year.

My most urgent priority – and I believe our collective top priority – is to permanently resolve our accreditation challenges.  As you all know, the undergraduate accreditors will visit us from May 10-12, 2015, and we must be ready to demonstrate the solutions we’ve implemented and to provide strong evidence of compliance.  We are also preparing for a full postgraduate accreditation survey in 2015.  You can expect regular updates on progress and how you can contribute to the success of our educational programs. One of our first key milestones will be accomplished once we have our full leadership team in place.

I intend to invest considerable time and energy to implement The Way Forward, and to establish a reconceptualized model for biomedical sciences.  I recognize we have a considerable amount to accomplish and I commit to bringing about the required change by working in a collaborative manner.  I will strive to advance our research agenda and grow our partnerships.

Together we can become one of the great Canadian medical schools. By this, I mean our College of Medicine will be seen by our learners and by the people of Saskatchewan to deliver on our mandate to the people we serve, better than any other Canadian medical school.  We will do this by training outstanding clinicians – the right doctors and physiotherapists for the right communities; creating new knowledge – including internationally recognized research as well as research in areas important to our communities and our province; and improving health outcomes for the people of Saskatchewan – through collegial, collaborative and effective partnerships with the Regional Health Authorities and throughout our provincial healthcare system.

I see the College of Medicine as a truly provincial institution with national and global impact.   All communities have a role in, and a benefit from, our education and our research. My vision of Saskatchewan’s College of Medicine is of a tapestry covering the province with multiple nodes of varying composition and intensity.  We must concurrently develop community-based education experiences across the province and work closely with our tertiary centres, as each have their unique strengths.   Distributed sites are ideally suited to junior learners and promoting generalism, which as you know is a key FMEC recommendation.  Our tertiary centres are critical as we train future specialists and sub-specialists and they enable us to produce research that is competitive with Academic Health Science Centres across the country.

I believe all of this is possible as my research shows me you have already faced great challenges and developed a comprehensive plan for change.   More importantly, I sense a collective desire to move forward. I see a university and a province determined to see our College of Medicine succeed. As my friends and colleagues bid their farewells, they tease me about the colder temperatures in Saskatchewan.  I respond that I will experience something called sunshine. But next, they comment with envy, that Saskatchewan is a “happening place”.  I believe our College of Medicine’s success can be synonymous with that of the Province of Saskatchewan.

As I said during my public address, to succeed at implementing The Way Forward and all of our future goals, we must be both relentless and flexible. So I need your support and your feedback both in my first 100 days or so and throughout my tenure as your dean.  In June, I would like to hold a ‘College Conversation’ session to hear comments from faculty, students and staff and help give me a first-hand understanding of the culture in our college.  Details will be shared in the coming days.

My goal is to be an accessible Dean to learners, staff and faculty members.  I have an open-door policy and to help both you and the College of Medicine I need to know about your successes, strengths, opportunities, challenges and barriers.  I invite all of you to stop me in the halls and introduce yourself, invite me to your meetings and your labs, or make an appointment to come and see me. I also hope to get to know clinical colleagues through patient care as I will practice Family Medicine on Wednesdays at the West Winds Primary Health Centre.

My goal is also to engage with all of our partners and our communities.  I commit to visiting all 13 health regions in my first year.  I will be working to develop a strategy for Distributed Medical Education in Saskatchewan. That strategy is absolutely dependent on our tertiary centres and I commit to working together to ensure we have nationally-recognized Academic Health Science Centres.

Finally I hope my tenure as your Dean is noted for transparency and communication. In addition to being available to you, I commit to regular communication to you about my work and the work of our college. You can follow me on Twitter at UsaskMedDean and visit medicine.usask.ca for updates.

On a personal note my wife, Jane (a bilingual elementary school teacher), and our adult daughter, Marie (who is moving with us), are excited to come to Saskatoon and the University of Saskatchewan. Murphy, our Springer Spaniel, is also enthused now that the drive across the country is over! It is turning into a wonderful opportunity for our whole family.  While one daughter is left behind in New Brunswick, we may still entice her west, and now, we are closer to another daughter in Calgary.

Finally, I would like to thank Drs. Lou Qualtiere and Colum Smith for their dedicated service to the college.  They have admirably accomplished what is a very challenging role as Interim Dean, and especially in what I am sure they will recall as truly interesting times.

So we are off!  As I have said, I am very enthusiastic to become your Dean and am grateful for the confidence you have placed in me. I believe we can accomplish great things together as committed learners, researchers, faculty, staff and partners at the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Medicine.

Sincerely,

Preston Smith, MD, MEd, CCFP, FCFP

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